Baptists therefore believe that infants and very young children who die are granted eternal life in heaven without the need for expressing a personal faith commitment to God (which they are too young to do), or for undergoing church rituals such as infant baptism. In place of infant baptism, Baptists practice a ceremony variously called infant/child or parental dedication. Inspired by the Biblical dedications of Samuel and Jesus, infant/child or parental dedication involves the parents presenting their infant or child to God and to the church during a worship service. The parents declare that they will raise their child in the Christian faith by personally modeling its values and by encouraging their family to be active in the life and witness of the local congregation. Although the focus is on the child's spiritual future, the onus of responsibility is placed on the adults. The congregation also commits itself to providing for the spiritual nurture of the child. Prayers are then offered for both parents and child.
As the child grows in spiritual awareness, it is hoped that he/she will decide to make a personal commitment to God through Jesus Christ. The church's ministries (Sunday School, children's sermons, and worship services) are mobilized to encourage the development of a sensitive conscience and a desire to seek God's presence in their lives. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness represent the offer of God's love and care, in response to the message that God expects humanity, both individually and corporately, to embrace justice and righteousness.
Baptists are perhaps most famous for their practice of baptism by immersion as the symbol of embracing the Christian journey and identifying with Jesus' death and resurrection. For Baptists, baptism is a public act of personal faith in which a person declares the intention to become a disciple of Jesus Christ and to live out the Christian journey by joining with other believers (by becoming a member of a specific church). In most Baptist churches, children are encouraged to take this step when they are able to articulate their commitment to Christ and understanding of the basics of Christian beliefs and practices. In practice, this usually is reserved for those who are in their early teens, but some congregations will permit younger children who display a more precocious grasp of the faith to be baptized as well.
BECOMING A STUDENT OF THE SCRIPTURES
As a Biblicist movement, Baptists have historically emphasized the authority and centrality of the Scriptures for informing how believers should live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In 1824, Baptists created the Baptist General Tract Society, which later was renamed the American Baptist Education Society, and helped create the American and Foreign Bible Society in 1837. Baptists are avid and dedicated students of the Scriptures, and seek from it principles for spirituality and morality.
Children as well as adults are expected to engage in ongoing Bible study in order to further their spiritual formation and development. Baptists have placed particular stress on the promotion of Sunday Schools, youth group programs, Bible clubs, and summer vacation Bible schools. The goal of this educational emphasis is not merely intellectual knowledge, but the gaining of wisdom and the deepening of spiritual commitment. Baptists read and study the Bible in the pursuit of personal application of timeless Scriptural truths so that ongoing spiritual transformation may take place. Recounting the stories of Biblical role models is a favored teaching methodology in Baptist youth classes because it encourages youth to emulate the faithfulness of the spiritual giants of the Bible.